‘Party of Five’ earns five stars

A midseason review

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Sony Pictures

The Acosta children talk to their parents right before they are deported back to Mexico. The reboot to the late 1990s series “Party of Five” premiered on Jan. 8. The show has been updated to keep with the current problems that some people in America face today while still staying in touch with the style of the classic.

Within a month of its release, “Party of Five” is clearly the show that America does not realize it needs.

The original “Party of Five” came out during the late ‘90s. This series was about a group of children whose parents died in a car crash and had to help raise each other. The new version, with the same title, still follows the main point of the siblings helping to raise each other, but instead of the parents dying in a car crash, the parents are deported to Mexico. 

[T]he showrunners make sure that the main takeaways are about love and children who are put in a position where they have to grow up too fast.”

— A&E Editor Jordan Owens

Although the new series incorporates one of the more controversial topics in America right now, the showrunners make sure that the main takeaways are about love and children who are put in a position where they have to grow up too fast.

In an interview with NPR executive producer Amy Lippman said, “We don’t actually mention the current administration once. My obligation is to tell a story about a family that draws an audience in.”

Party of Five tames the high energy of politics and allows audiences to see the impact that the decisions made by politicians have on families. For example, in the series it is a constant question if the Acosta children will be split up since the oldest child’s citizenship status is currently protected by DACA.

After researching the original “Party of Five,” and having seen the first five episodes of the reboot, I can say that the plot is pretty much the only thing that separates the reboot from the original. 

While it is okay if they both have some similar characteristics, it bothers me that the characters have the same personality.

I feel like the creators of the show are not trying to let the new “Party of Five” stand on its own. The oldest Emilio Acosta, like Charlie Salinger, is irresponsible and a ladies’ man. They both were a little reluctant to become the guardian to their younger siblings.

Like Bailey Salinger, Beto Acosta is the bad boy of the family at first. After their parents are taken away Beto realizes he has to step up and also act as a parent to his siblings. He is extremely close to his youngest sister, Valentina, the same way Bailey was with his younger sister Claudia.

Usually with premieres, they typically do one of two things. They either immediately show the aftermath of the series’ original conflict or not show the original conflict until the end of the episode, and more often than not this strategy does not work in a series’ favor. “Party of Five” does not do any of these — they showcase the main conflict in the first five minutes of “Pilot.”

We’ve really made an effort to try to represent the real points of view and the real emotions of people who’ve experienced this tragedy.”

— writer Gabriel Llanas

Since it is based around a controversial topic such as deportation I expected to see about two scenes of the deportation process. Instead, “Party of Five” spends an entire episode addressing deportation. 

They show the real process of deportation, from getting arrested by ICE, being detained, talking with a lawyer, going to trial, and finally leaving the country. 

“We’ve really made an effort to try to represent the real points of view and the real emotions of people who’ve experienced this tragedy,” show writer Gabriel Llanas said in an interview with NPR

This statement is too true. While watching the process of deportation audiences will have their heartstrings pulled on numerous occasions as the actors give phenomenal performances when their characters are separating.

For example, Emilio and his father share a heartfelt moment about the time when the new father carried his son over the border in hopes of giving Emilio a better life.

The second episode, “Margin of Error,” picks up almost immediately after Javier and Gloria Acosta are deported. 

The episode focuses more on how each of the children are coping with this tragedy. This is when the audience sees that the two girls of the family are handling it the worst. 

When the oldest Acosta daughter Lucia realizes her parents are not coming back to her in the future, Lucia changes from a well-behaved straight-A student to a rebel teen who hates the world and almost everyone in it. She also takes it upon herself to directly help as many DACA recipients and undocumented people as she can, but this sometimes causes trouble to her family’s standard of living.

Valentina, the youngest daughter, is the most traumatized of all the children because she saw her parents being taken away when they were eating dinner at their family’s restaurant. It causes Valentina to not be able to sleep in her bed most of the time and become tense when she hears anyone talking about ICE or around the police.

Even though it is explored, the trauma that this family face does not end. This third episode, “Long Distance,” is partly dedicated to the relationship that Valentina shares with her mother.

Emilio realizes he might have made a mistake by taking this job offer and chooses to shield his family over money.”

— A&E Editor Jordan Owens

Valentina misses her mother so much that she starts to Skype her numerous times a day. This interaction between a parent and their child turns bad when Valentina becomes ill after she is not able to contact her mother for a few days due to an earthquake in Mexico. 

These scenes throughout this episode just go to show how the separation between the parents and children in the reboot “Party of Five” may be a little more heart wrenching than the original because the parents are still alive yet are forced to be hundreds of miles away. 

“Authentic Mexican” is the second most serious episode right behind the pilot episode. In this episode, Emilio faces one of the hardest challenges as a business owner, racism. 

To try to expand his father’s successful restaurant, Emilio decides to cater to a rich white woman who wants the “authentic Mexican experience” except all she does is place stereotypes on the party and staff. 

By the end of the episode, Emilio realizes he might have made a mistake by taking this job offer and chooses to shield his family over money.

Episode five “Rafa” is probably my favorite episode so far. It shows how the Acosta family can find light in the little things while facing hardships. 

In the first few scenes of the episode, audiences can experience Beto’s first true relationship and the awkwardness that comes with it. It’s funny, and cringy, to watch Beto constantly worry about his relationship and if he is doing everything like he is supposed to.

I love series that have more than a romance drama, ones that people can relate to on a personal level.”

— A&E Editor Jordan Owens

We also get to see Emilio finally setting into his role as a parent whether it is awkwardly giving his brother the sex talk or taking his baby brother to the hospital after catching a cold.

It is the sweet moments in this episode that show me no matter what obstacles the family faces they will be able to get through them together. 

I believe “Party of Five” has two great strengths that will help the series continue to succeed.

The first is that this series has a group of phenomenal actors. Each gives depth to their character’s personality, delivers wonderful performances on especially hard scenes, and makes these fictional characters feel real overall.

The second is that people typically love amazing TV series, especially when they are made by people of color, for people of color. It shows just how diverse the entertainment industry is becoming. 

Though it is annoying sometimes knowing that a few scenes may be a straight copy from the original “Party of Five,” the reboot sets these scenes up in a way that makes them unique. 

I love series that have more than a romance drama, ones that people can relate to on a personal level. To me, this is what “Party of Five” is all about, and it makes me excited for the rest of the season.